Instant analysis: Baylor-UConn
SAN ANTONIO -- Connecticut beat Baylor 70-50 in the second national semifinal Sunday night at the women's Final Four at the Alamodome. A look at how the Huskies won:
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The Huskies won this game like they have most of the other 76. They utilized their strengths better than the opposition. Maya Moore started hot like she has almost the entire tournament and kept the points coming. UConn was determined to get the ball to Tina Charles whether or not Brittney Griner was leaning on her. Charles had another outstanding game. UConn's defense, as it typically is, was rarely out of position, gave up few easy shots, and made Baylor grind for everything. Unless you point to the Lady Bears' run early in the second half as something different, this was a fairly typical UConn win -- in control, decisive and well-earned.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Moore. She scored 12 of UConn's first 15 points and never stopped being the best player on the floor. Her 34 points were only part of the story. She had 12 rebounds, a perfectly placed assist on one of the biggest baskets of the game (an alley-oop to Kalana Greene with 11:21 remaining), and six points during the only period of the game when UConn was threatened. Her 3-of-6 effort from the line might be the only thing to criticize.
PLAYER OF THE GAME II: Charles. If Moore was the game's best player, then Charles must have been the second best. Isn't that how it works for the Huskies in 2010? It's one or the other. Charles went right at Griner from word "go," and other than perhaps two moments, short periods in each half, completely outplayed Baylor's 6-foot-8 freshman. Charles' sweeping baby hooks were a weapon and helped Charles to another impressive double-double, 21 points and 13 rebounds.
PLAYER OF THE GAME III: Baylor's Morghan Medlock. When Baylor was at its best, during the 12-0 run over the first 5:05 of the second half, Medlock was the Lady Bears' best. She scored six of those points. After a slow start to the first half, she needed to be more involved. Finishing with a team-leading 14 points and six rebounds ends her career on something of a high note.
TURNING POINT: Baylor did the unthinkable and came back on UConn -- came back big. The Lady Bears drew within 41-38 with 14:55 left. The Baylor fans and many Oklahoma fans who stuck around were fully engaged and loud. Then Baylor failed to get Griner any touches on three straight trips and UConn ran off a 12-2 run. In the spurt, Moore had two rebounds, an assist, a steal and three baskets. Just more than five minutes after getting to within three, Baylor was down 53-40. Two Griner free throws were the only points during that span. The rally by Baylor did one thing beside make the game interesting for a while longer: UConn coach Geno Auriemma took his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves.
STAT OF THE GAME: The two teams combined to shoot just 4-for-24 from the 3-point line.
STAT OF THE GAME II: Griner, solid in the first half, merely scored four points in the second. In fact, Griner took only four shots in the second half. She didn't get enough touches when UConn began to pull away and the numbers back that up. She finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
STAT OF THE GAME III: How dominant are the Huskies? They beat another top-rated team by 20 points and did it while only shooting 41.8 percent from the field, 3-of-17 from 3-point range, and 11-for-19 from the free throw line. That's where the defense comes in. Both the field goal and 3-point shooting were still better than Baylor's -- and UConn forced 21 Lady Bears turnovers.
D'ING UP: UConn has now played five NCAA tournament games this year and Baylor's 50 points equaled the most any opponent has scored (Florida State also had 50).
PLAYER OF THE HALF: Connecticut's Maya Moore. She has made a habit out of furiously electric starts and did it again Sunday. She scored 10 points over the game's first 5 minutes, 49 seconds, and 12 of UConn's first 15 points. Moore made 9 of 14 field goals and finished the half with 21 points. She did it with deadly jump shooting (3-of-5 on 3-pointers), a couple of fully extended layups, and even a running, one-footed floater in the lane, the prettiest shot of the night and, perhaps, even the tournament.
PLAYER OF THE HALF II: Baylor's Brittney Griner. She wasn't remarkably dominant on defense, but she did change some shots and blocked three. But in the final 10 minutes, she became an offensive force on the low, left block. She finished with nine points and four rebounds.
PLAYER OF THE HALF III: Connecticut's Tina Charles. In no way was Charles intimidated by Griner. She has repeatedly gone right at her. Charles has used her sweeping hook, physical play and even her legs to get the best of Griner so far.
TURNING POINT: One could argue the turning point of this one came when Moore finished tying the final loop on her sneakers. Once she was ready, Baylor had problems. But perhaps what established the half into what it would be was Charles making her first sweeping hook over Griner. It gave UConn a 23-8 lead with 10:34 left, established Charles on the inside and indicated UConn wouldn't have to solely rely on Moore.
STAT OF THE HALF: Baylor committed 11 turnovers. Those lost possessions have meant that UConn has attempted 14 more shots. That then led to eight more field goals for the Huskies. Every possession and every detail matters against Connecticut.
MEDLOCK ON LOCKDOWN: Baylor's Morghan Medlock, who averages 9.6 points per game, didn't score her first points until 5:49 left in the half. While she did finish with six, she really wasn't much of a factor for most of her 15 minutes. Any surprise that Medlock was matched up with Moore for most of that time?
THREE THINGS CONNECTICUT HAS TO DO TO WIN:
1. Be UConn. It has worked for nearly two straight seasons, so why change now, right? Geno Auriemma made the point before the game that it was Baylor and Griner that would have to adjust to the Huskies and Charles -- and he wasn't wrong.
2. Ride the horses. They are delivering once again. The Huskies don't need to overcome a bad night by their superstars. Moore has 21 points. Charles has 13. No need to go away from what has worked so well tonight and for so long.
3. Rebound. The Huskies are winning the battle right now and the best way to let a team that's down to get back up is to give away second-chance points.
THREE THINGS BAYLOR HAS TO DO TO WIN:
1. Make some 3-pointers. It's not a Baylor strong suit, but in order to beat UConn, teams need to raise certain aspects to a new level. This would be the area for the Lady Bears. They aren't going to make up this deficit simply by dumping the ball to Griner.
2. Find more of Moore. Moore is running too freely. Her jump shots, for the most part, haven't been contested. Maybe some kind of gimmick defense could be in order. That's not usually the best answer, but these aren't usual circumstances and this isn't a usual opponent.
3. Get to the line. Baylor has actually done a good job at that in the first half, going 10-of-12. More free points would aid a comeback considerably.
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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